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The Tales Of Biddle

I have loved these books by Gail Carson Levine for a really long time. My grandfather gave me an old cassette tape version of them when I was really little. My parents had to dig to find a tape player so I could listen to them. We didn't have one when he gave them to me, so it was kind of tricky. Once we did, I wore out those old tapes. This collection isn't groundbreaking. Most of the fairytales it retells are hardly changed, but they bring a charm and a life to fairytales not many people know. And they've inspired me for some of my favorite works I've worked on to date.

There are six short fairytale retellings in this series. They are told in order of when they happened in the Kingdom of Biddle. Each fairytale starts with the royal couple, they have a child, then that grandchild is the prince or princess of the next story, making a cute little mini verse. For young children or anyone who loves fairytales, this is a great short chapter book style to get into. I'll review each tale in a small paragraph to give you an idea.

  1. The Fairy's Mistake: Not a lot of people know this, but this is pretty much an exact retelling of another fairytale called Diamonds and Toads. But she adds character and detail the original tale lacks. IN a nuts shell, there are twin sisters, one who is a sweet maiden and the other a jerk. The sweet girl gives an old woman a drink at the well, and the old woman, who is a fairy, blesses her so when she speaks jewels fall out of her mouth. When her sister sees this, she runs off to do the same, but the fairy changed herself to a knight. The evil twin refuses to help him and is cursed to have bugs and snakes come out. I won't spoil it, but it doesn't go well for the kind sister but it works well for the wicked sister. A tale about even the wise sometimes making mistakes. One of my favorites in the series.

  2. The Princess Test: This one has a lot added to it because it's based on The Princess and the Pea and that original tale is so short it could be on one page if you wanted it to. In this retelling, the princess isn't actually born a princess. The king and queen are very picky and insist al royals should be. The prince has met our maiden before and wants to marry her, so when she shows up in a storm by mistake and his parents mistake her for a princess, he has her undertake the princess test with all the others and prays she wins. But she is unique. She is allergic to almost everything. Will that be enough to prove she's a princess? I just loved the idea of a set of tests to prove someone is a true princess no matter if she was born one or not.

  3. Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep: It's sleeping beauty. And it's pretty much a basic of the version we all expect, but with a fun twist. Princess Sanora (by the way the take on the word snore in her name still makes me laugh) is blessed to be extremely smart. She tries to outsmart the 100-year sleep, but will she succeed? You'll have to see for yourself.

  4. Cinderellis and the Glass Hill: You may assume at first this is just another Cinderellea story. It's not. You might thing it's just a guy Cinderella. It's not. This tale is almost right out of the original story The Princess on the Glasshill but Levine adds a few Cinderella like elements to it as well. A invetor farm boy wants nothing more than to prove to his brothers he's worth it, but they're too joined at the hip to let Cinderellis into their click. So he tires to prove his powders work by getting to the top of the glass hill the king has made. Whoever gets to the top gets to marry his daughter. She's lonely too, and sets out ot make sure only a kind knight reaches the top with his horse. Cinderellis only wants the money to marry the milkmaid he met in the village (Who he has no idea was the princess trying to see who was the kindest knight there.) I won't give away more, but her added details to the original make for easily my favorite story of the bunch now and when I was a child.

  5. For Biddles' Sake: This one is the most different from the original. We take The Princess and the Frog and make the maiden turn into the front. We also mix in some Rapunzel elements. Our sweet Parsley (so named because her mother craved Parsley that only grew in the mean fairy's garden) lives with the fairy who her parents stole from as payment for all they stole. She loves living with her fairy guardian and wants to learn magic, but only creatures of the magic can. She loves using her magic glass to watch the prince at the castle. He's the youngest and has two twin brothers who always fight and break things and blame it on him. Parsley falls in love from a far, but one day when he and his brothers pass by, and Parsley just wants to watch, the fairy is jealous and tries to turn him into a toad, but Parsley steps in the way and is changed instead. Her only way to become human is if a human man asks her to marry him even as a toad. Can she get the prince to ask her? And now she's a magical creature, she can do magic too. Perhaps that will help her win the prince and help him rule instead of his wicked brothers. Another one with amazing twists, so different from the source material. Likely the best quality tale in the bunch.

  6. The Fairy's Return: And we come full circle. The fairy back at the beginning in The Fairy's MIstake finally has to return to her duties as a fairy. She ends up trying to help a common boy who's in love with the princess, but her father will not her play, let alone marry, a commoner. (How this happens when clearly every other generation of Biddle royals have married commoners, I'll never know, but that's how it goes.) But she's terrified she'll mess it up again like she did hundreds of years ago. Will she succeed or be another mistake?

In my opinion, these short stories are some of Gail's finest work. I found some of her longer books like Ella Enchanted and Fairest a little too literary, like they were trying to win awards instead of telling a good story, most of all with twists endings, but these are pure genius lacking in that kind of high thinking. They're simple and fun like fairytales are supposed to with a simple moral at the end. Disagree or agree with the moral of a fairytale, that's how it goes. I highly recommend these if you like fairytale retellings at all. They are cute gold. I've found inspiration on how to write a good retelling in all of them. You can get them super cheap on audible (like $5.99 a story) or get the paperbacks at the link below.


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